The Top Challenges for Sales in 2016

Top Challenges for sales in 2016
The recent unveiling of the 2016 Selling Challenges Study, an annual research survey of field sales reps presented by Richardson, highlights the biggest issues that sales professionals will see throughout the remainder of the year.

These issues pertain to the entire sales process, from the prospecting phase to the closing phase. Read on to see this year’s most prevalent obstacles in sales and how salespeople should deal with these challenges.

2016 Selling Challenges Study – results

The prospecting stage…

Top 3 challenges:

      • Identifying sales signals: 16% (same as last year)
      • Identifying target accounts: 14.4% (nearly double the percentage of last year)
      • Qualifying prospects: 10.3% (double the percentage of last year)

The “assessment of client needs” stage…

Top 3 challenges:

      • Creating value and insight during client conversations: 27%
      • Disclosing complete information regarding the decision-making process: 26.6%
      • Investigating client issues and challenges to define the strategic impact of your solution: 19.4%

The negotiation stage…

Top 3 challenges:

      • Gaining higher prices: 29.2%
      • Dealing with adversarial negotiations: 21.2%
      • Customers who continue to reopen the negotiation: 18.8%

The closing stage…

Top 3 challenges:

      • Competing with a low-cost provider: 48%
      • Differentiating from competitors: 14.8%
      • Creating a compelling case for change in an attempt to avoid a “no-decision”: 8.4% (half of last year’s percentage)

Managing accounts…

Top 3 challenges:

      • Finding ways to add relevant value for various stakeholders: 27.08%
      • Balancing sales and relationship management: 24.58%
      • Addressing problems and complaints: 19.58%

Expanding relationships…

Top 3 challenges:

      • Cross-selling: 25%
      • Providing insights and challenging clients: 23%
      • Aging products: 21%

According to the responses given in the 2016 Selling Challenges Study, these may be the most challenging times that sales representatives have seen. There are a number of factors that have contributed to this. Perhaps the biggest factor has been the maturation of the internet. With virtually endless information accessible online, customers are more knowledgeable than ever and are much less susceptible to persuasion than they once were. The internet has also allowed the formation of highly-connected, 24/7 global markets, which has in turn resulted in increased competition and commoditization.

While the these obstacles have made sales more difficult, sales representatives can overcome their challenges with the right approach. For example, one of the best ways to combat the emerging difficulties in sales is through the prioritization of conversation. Customers no longer go to sales representatives for information – they go to them for a relationship. This is why it is extremely important for sales representatives to connect with their customers and provide engaging conversation. If you are able to have conversations with customers that flow naturally and easily, you will have a much better chance of converting leads into sales. In order to do this, however, it is important to provide 100% of your attention to the customer. If you get distracted with taking notes, for example, the customer can sense that you are preoccupied and will become less interested in the conversation. It is also important to not give the same canned pitches over and over again. The customer can tell if a pitch is scripted, and no customer likes to hear a scripted sales pitch.

In addition to placing more importance on quality conversation with customers, those working in sales can significantly benefit from embracing technology tools. Through predictive analytics, one can can gain better insight on customers and learn which leads are the hottest and deserve the most attention. Not only does this provides sales representatives with more knowledge that can better prepare them for challenging customers, but it also saves a lot of time. Another very useful tool is sales automation technology. Through automation, sales reps can drastically cut down their time spent doing tedious tasks so they can focus more on conversing with customers and closing deals. It has been reported that the typical sales representative spends only 32% of their time actually selling to the customer, and the remaining 68% is spent doing tasks such as logging calls and taking notes. This is an incredible waste of time, and if you aren’t using automation to let that 68% of the day be spent on making more sales, you can guarantee that your competition is.